Oil and Gas

In a first, Cheniere to export US liquefied natural gas

Cheniere's nat gas bet

After years of preparation, Cheniere Energy Partners completed loading its first tanker with liquefied natural gas for export at a Louisiana terminal Wednesday.

The occasion was a significant one for Cheniere, whose stock nearly half its value in 2015 amid tumbling natural gas prices. Over the last several years, the company has spent billions building terminals such as the Louisiana facility so it can export LNG — widely seen as a cleaner energy source than coal and oil — from the U.S.

Cheniere's interim CEO, Neal Shear, said Wednesday on CNBC's Power Lunch that he remains optimistic about the company's future.

"Cheniere is in fabulous shape," Shear said, adding that the company has secured contracts for 87 percent of its liquefied natural gas export terminals. "We're not like other companies in the energy patch, and people should really think of us in that sense."

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While demand for natural gas is "a little bit slack," Shear reiterated his confidence in Cheniere's investment in the export market. The company is continuing construction of LNG terminals along the Gulf Coast, and will likely see positive free cash flows within the next few years, he said.

"When you build projects like this, you're not worried about the next 36 months — you're really worried about 20 years," Shear said. "I'm very positive that the year 2020 and beyond, that the demand for LNG will continue to increase. And that's what we're here to do."

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It's too early to tell how Cheniere's investment will pay off. The company's co-founder and former CEO, Charif Souki, was ousted in December. Souki has since declared he plans to launch his own liquefied natural gas company, according to Bloomberg Business.

Asked whether Souki's dismissal has altered Cheniere's plans, Shear shrugged off the notion the company is planning on changing course.

"It really doesn't matter who's sitting in front of the camera with you today," Shear said. "The market really dictates expansion plans."